Friday, 20 November 2020

Adeyinka Makinde Interviewed on The Write Now Show

My appearance on "The Write Now Show", a cable TV show hosted by Judy Saxon and Charles Redner in Laguna Woods Village in southern California.

It is a show dedicated to "Writers, Writing and the Arts".

It was recorded on Friday, October 23rd via Zoom and uploaded online after it was shown on the cable channel.

We discussed a range of topics that included my biographies on the world boxing champion Dick Tiger and the one on Frankie DePaula, the boxer who was murdered by the Mafia. Also mention is made of my essay contributions to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Friday, 13 November 2020

Flight Lieutenant Jerry John RAWLINGS (1947-2020)

The Former Military and Civilian Head of State of Ghana photographed in contemplative mode during a press conference held on January 20th 1982 after seizing power in a military coup on New Year’s Eve 1981.

Photo Credit: A. Abbas.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Thursday, 12 November 2020

Watching James Bond with Admiral Wey

A cropped photo of the then Rear Admiral Wey at a social gathering at our home in Hendon, London during the early 1970s which presumably was taken by my Father who was then serving as the Deputy-Defence Advisor at the Nigerian High Commission. 

The passing of James Bond icon Sean Connery reminds me of a visit by Vice Admiral J.E.A. Wey to our home in Apapa, Lagos in the 1970s.

This was after his retirement following the overthrow of General Yakubu Gowon in whose regime he had served as the Chief of Staff Supreme Headquarters.

A video tape of the James Bond movie "From Russia, With Love" was playing in the sitting room during which time Wey and my Father, his former aide-de-camp, were often in quiet conversation. That is apart from when Wey broke off from the conversation to use his walking staff to playfully poke me or other youngsters around on our sides or behind our necks.

He was always teasing kids.

He also kept referring to himself as the "Old Man", his nickname among the senior military officers; making an accompanying joke on each occasion.

Anyway, when late in the movie, the fight scene between Sean Connery (James Bond) and Robert Shaw (Red Grant, the SPECTRE assassin) was happening, Wey and my Dad stopped chatting and became absorbed in the movie.

When Connery finally overcomes Shaw, he's about to leave the train compartment before he decides to go back and retrieve the wallet containing gold sovereigns which Shaw had earlier relieved him of at gunpoint. Then as Connery is leaving he says to the dead Grant:

"You won't be needing this, old man".

The mention of "old man" was cue for Wey to let off his trademark deep, throaty laughter.

Although this film is silent you can see a Royal Navy admiral turn to look in the direction of Wey when he laughs at the 14-second mark:

Newsreel of Nigerian Naval Delegates at the Royal Navy Equipment Exhibition | September 1971

He was quite a jolly character.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Monday, 2 November 2020

To the Shade of Sean Connery

Sean Connery

It is no exaggeration to write that as the star of the first movies about the British Intelligence agent James Bond, Sean Connery was part of a cultural phenomenon that shaped the 1960s. And in defining the physical and spoken character of Ian Fleming’s hero, he became the standard by which all the other actors who have followed him in the role are judged. It is also no exaggeration to place him on the mantle of among the great cinematic stars of the 20th century. This achievement was due to his persistence in successfully transcending the limitations which the extraordinary success of the Bond movies threatened to place on his range and competence as an actor.

Connery always wanted to be known as more than a beefcake or a matinee idol, and he was quick to appreciate that the character of Bond presented an albatross from which needed to escape. He proved his abilities in ‘serious’ roles such as The Hill (1965) and The Offence (1972). He was excellent as Danny Dravot in John Houston’s version of the Kipling story The Man Who Would Be King. Houston had wanted to film it in the early 1950s with Humphrey Bogart and Clark Gable, but which thankfully for cinema audiences was “delayed” for almost a quarter of a century. Some critics posit The Hill as his best ‘serious’ role, but there are many other roles from which to choose, including from his earlier work when he was developing as an actor such as Hell Drivers (1957), and those when he was on the cusp of stardom such as his starring role as an 11th century Scottish king in the TV version of the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth (1961).

His ineffable style of delivery of one-liners in the Bond movies were part of his skill which revolutionised the screen hero, as was his projection of masculinity. One of the highlights of Connery’s screen career surely has to be his train brawl with Robert Shaw (‘Red Grant’) in From Russia, With Love (1963). It was a realistic mix of choreographed boxing, hapkido and street fighting techniques that breathed new life into the tired formula of big screen fights which Hollywood favoured up to that period in time.

Later in his career, his screen presence remained intact when sharing the spotlight with rising talents such as Kevin Costner and Wesley Snipes. There were many accolades along the way, but his greatest triumph was when in 1988, he won an Oscar for his performance in The Untouchables”; the judges, like the audiences, evidently forgave his portrayal of an Irish cop with his trademark Scottish burr.

His Scottish heritage as well as his birth into urban poverty defined him. The son of a factory worker whose Irish Catholic forebears had migrated to Scotland, Connery’s relentless quest to be somebody never left him. The willingness of the media to portray him as the archetypal “stingy Scot” rode roughshod of the fact that his shrewdness was not remarkable for many who lived a childhood of grinding poverty. And it was a forgivable aspect of his personality given the predatory con artists which pervade the show business industry. Connery himself would suffer from poor financial advice which led to several costly legal entanglements that almost left him bankrupt.

Less forgivable were the allegations of misogyny including physical violence against his first wife, the actress Diane Cilento. Others charged him with hypocrisy for not living in Scotland, the country for which he remained an avowed proponent for national independence, while enjoying the life of a tax exile from the United Kingdom.

But these imperfections did not dim the view of many in his homeland who once voted him as the “world’s greatest living Scot”, and who in death persist in acclaiming him as not only one of the greatest ever Scotsmen, but also the last of the truly great cinema actors.

Thomas Sean Connery KBE was born on August 25th 1930 and died on October 31st 2020.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sunday, 1 November 2020

The Most Classic of Classic Bond Movie Lines?

James Bond encounters a deadly laser gun in the film “Goldfinger”.

James Bond: “Do you expect me to talk?”

Auric Goldfinger: “No Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!”

Scene from the 1964 United Artists movie Goldfinger which starred Sean Connery as James Bond and Gert Frobe as Auric Goldfinger.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Sean Connery: The Ultimate Commander James Bond?

Commander James Bond, C.M.G., R.N.V.R. (Source: Alamy Photos)

Sean Connery (1930-2020) wearing the uniform of a Royal Navy commander in a publicity photograph for "You Only Live Twice" (1967), the fifth in the film series inspired by the books authored by Ian Fleming, who served as a naval intelligence officer during World War II.

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020)

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England.

Saturday, 31 October 2020

From Boxers To Rappers: When Ali Endorsed Reagan For President

Cartoon caricatures of former world heavyweight champions Floyd Patterson, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. (Image: Detroit Free Press, Friday, November 2nd 1984).

The rapper 50 Cent recently created a furore over his endorsement of Donald Trump during the present U.S. presidential campaign. That the print and online media found it noteworthy to report and discuss his and other endorsements from a number of other rappers was interesting not least because it bears similar undertones to the reaction of Muhammad Ali’s 1984 endorsement of Ronald Reagan, a right-wing Republican presidential candidate who was perceived by many in the Black American community as a “racist”.

The controversy which followed the recent endorsement by the Black American rapper and actor 50 Cent of Donald Trump provoked a severe backlash from many in the Black community, as well as from Democratic Party-supporting White Liberals. It was on many levels reminiscent of the backlash which followed similar endorsements by Black celebrities of right-wing presidential candidates of the past such as that which followed Sammy Davis Jr’s support of Richard Nixon in 1972 as well as Muhammad Ali’s approval of Ronald Reagan in 1984. 

Whereas 50 cent based his support of Trump on what he claimed was Joe Biden’s draconian tax plans for the wealthy, Ali, who had earlier endorsed the left-leaning Jesse Jackson during his landmark presidential bid, based his decision not on economics but on religion; saying that Reagan was “keeping God in schools, and that’s enough.”

The reaction towards Ali was littered with expressions of "disappointment", as well as barbs related to his declining health, which his political critics attributed to brain damage caused by a lengthy career in the ring.

Ali's endorsement of Reagan came alongside that of two other Black former heavyweight champions, Joe Frazier and Floyd Patterson. Headlined "We're Voting For the Man", billboards appeared showing Reagan playfully aiming a punch at Ali and superimposed photos of Frazier and Patterson.  Ali had specifically referred to both rivals as being "Uncle Toms" because they had received widespread support from Whites in the contests that he had with Frazier and Patterson respectively in 1971 and 1965. And it seemed rather odd and insulting that the marketing team who placed the billboard in Black neighbourhoods would use the designation of Reagan as “The Man”. “The Man” was of course a Black colloquialism which referred to a figure of state authority who was perceived to be an instrument of “White oppression of Blacks”.

It seemed striking that Ali, who at the peak of his powers was a member of the separatist Nation of Islam organisation and who was perceived by many White Americans as a racist and a radical, would actually take the step of endorsing a figure such as Reagan.  

There were compelling reasons as to why this should have been the case.

A former film actor and governor of the state of California, Reagan was perceived as a "racist" because when bidding for the Republican Party's presidential nomination in 1980, he chose to start his campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the place where three civil rights workers were brutally murdered during the height of the movement. This alongside Reagan's frequent references to "states' rights" appeared to many to have been a coded message to White segregationists.

One other noteworthy incident which confirmed for many Reagan’s racial bias occurred two years prior to Ali’s endorsement when Larry Holmes, a Black world heavyweight champion, fought Gerry Cooney, an Irish-American contender. There had not been a White American world heavyweight champion since Rocky Marciano had reigned in the 1950s. The bout is remembered in boxing circles for the heightened atmosphere of bitter racial rivalry which surrounded it, and this was not helped by the fact that it was discovered that Reagan had made arrangements to call and congratulate Cooney in the event of the challenger winning the bout.

No similar arrangement was made with Holmes.

More evidence of Reagan’s racial attitudes was unearthed last year through the discovery of a taped conversation with Richard Nixon in the early 1970s. Complaining about a vote against the United States in the United Nations which had been supported by many African countries, Reagan told Nixon:

Last night, I tell you, to watch that thing on television as I did ... To see those, those monkeys from those African countries—damn them, they’re still uncomfortable wearing shoes!

Nixon responded with laughter.

This was of course unknown at the time of Ali’s endorsement, but the other points of evidence along with Reagan’s history of opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 were enough to direct a great deal of opprobrium towards Ali.

In a syndicated column published in October 1984, and titled "Once a Champ, Now a Loser", Eileen O'Connor concluded that Ali's athletic talents had faded years ago and "It's a shame to see him lose his dignity as well." (1)

(1) It was not the first time that Ali had been criticised in this sort of manner. Some years previously, his decision to accept the role as President Jimmy Carter’s special envoy tasked with encouraging African nations to boycott the Moscow Olympics after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan was met with incredulity by several of the African nations he visited. Nigeria’s Shehu Shagari refused to meet him, and a Tanzanian diplomat famously offered the following criticism of American policy by asking whether the United States would “send Chris Evert to negotiate with London.”

© Adeyinka Makinde (2020).

Adeyinka Makinde is a writer based in London, England. He is the author of the books Jersey Boy: The Life and Mob Slaying of Frankie DePaula and Dick Tiger: The Life and Times of a Boxing Immortal. He contributed two essays to the Cambridge Companion to Boxing, part of the Cambridge Companions to Literature series published by Cambridge University Press in January 2019. They were “The Africans: Boxing and Africa” and “Jose Torres: The Boxer as Writer”.